When yes is too much 3

I’m rubbish at saying no to things and it’s not good for my health.

I like to be helpful, I don’t like to let people down and I don’t like to admit that I really don’t have the skills to meet a request.  I need to learn to say no, I need the confidence to say “No”.

It’s one of the things that pushed me over the edge recently.  I took on too much, then gave myself a hard time for not being able to cope with it all when I felt I really should, got frustrated with myself… took on too much… and it all spiraled out of control.  The doctor signed me off work for two weeks and we decided together that I needed to increase my sertraline dose.  This is not a decision we took lightly, but CBT doesn’t help anymore.

My first day back coincided with my annual review at work (which I really didn’t want to do anyway) but it turned out to be more helpful than I expected. There is nothing that can be done about my work load, but I was able to have a very honest conversation with my manager.  It was difficult, as he will never entirely understand how my GAD and depression affects me, and he gets frustrated about it himself, but, having spoken about things, I feel more positive about my own abilities.  He pointed out that I wouldn’t have my current role (a promotion I got at the back end of last year) if he didn’t think I could do the job. I realised that my confidence had been so shot recently that I was even asking question in a negative way, about stuff that I actually knew but wasn’t necessarily entirely sure of.  I was saying to myself, and him, “I don’t know what to do” or “I can’t do this”, rather than “I think this, what do you think?” or “I think I remember this but I am not sure, was it x and y or y and z?”.  Later that week, when I told someone to stop saying sorry all the time because it was like they were apologising for existing, my manager gave me a meaningful look and agreed with me.  It’s weird, but just asking questions in such a way lifts my spirits.  I suspect he is also being a little more careful how he phrases things to me too.  Either way, I feel much more positive about myself and our working relationship.

Anyway, what has all this got to do with saying no?  It gave me the confidence to do so to someone this week who is actually more senior than me.  They asked me if it was possible for something to be done for a meeting he had that afternoon.  My immediate urge was to say “Yes”, drop what I had been doing and start on that job, I took a moment and instead asked them one thing: “Is this a Nice To Have or a Need To Have?”.  He decided it was a Nice to Have and went away quite happily.  I needed a bit of reassurance from the lass who sits next to me that I hadn’t been rude and had been reasonable.  I’m not giving myself a hard time about needing that reassurance though, as I feel like I am (re)learning a whole new skill that I should have/did learn by the time I left school, so I’m finding it difficult to gauge when and where it is appropriate.

So now, I have a few rules for myself at work, to help me stay on track:

  1. Is something a need to have or a nice to have?
  2. It’s ok to (politely) say no to things.
  3. I do know stuff, I will need pointers at times, but I can ask for them in a way that reminds me (and the person I am questioning) that I have some knowledge of the subject.
  4. If I start to feel overwhelmed I don’t give myself a hard time for taking ten minutes away from my desk to get some fresh air or just lock myself in a toilet cubicle for a bit of space from other people


My memory isn’t so good these days so I decided to got a “stuff to remember” book in my desk drawer now (to stop things disappearing into one of my notebooks). It’s one I bought for myself for this specific purpose so it is in bright colours I like and I can use stickers and washi tape in it as it’s just a book for me.   It feels like a special book.  It’s for scribbling down anything from a piece of code or procedure to something I did well during a day.

The very first page says “You CAN do this”.

And I can.

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3 thoughts on “When yes is too much

  • last year's girl

    I think those rules sound perfect. Plus, having a structure like that in place will go a huge way to easing the guilt that people-pleasers like ourselves have to overcome when we say “no”. Have you read The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck? The section on “personal policies” might be really useful to you here…

    Proud of you, lass.

    Lis / last year’s girl x

    • Nic

      It is now added to my wishlist! (birthday in a few weeks)

      Just finished reading “The Happiness Hypothesis” – absolutely brilliant – and am now on “How to be a Productivity Ninja” (as you can see in my “currently reading” list).

      And thank you, you are awesome x